Monday, August 31, 2020

Nyet! Candace Fleming's 'Family Romanov'

On July 17, 1918 the Romanov family of seven and their servants were murdered at this site in Yekaterinburg, Russia which was then the Ipatiev House. In later years, the Politburo and Premier Boris Yeltsin resisted the growing sacredness of the site and the pilgrims who visited the Ipatiev House and ordered it torn down in 1977. In its place, one of the largest churches in Russia, the Church on the Blood was erected.  It opened in 2003/Patricia Leslie
This statue honors the memory of the Romanov children, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei at Ganina Yama where the bodies of the children, their parents, and servants were thrown into a pit, 9.5 miles from the murder site/Patricia Leslie
Lily fields at the Ganina Yama pit where the Bolsheviks threw the bodies which they burned with acid for two days before moving them to their second graves, a field 4.5 miles away. When this picture was made 100 years after the family assassinations, large photographs of family members hung on the wooden walkway which surrounded the lily field. Above are two of the Romanov daughters. Every year at the Church of the Blood in Yekaterinburg, thousands gather for services on the anniversary of the murders and then walk four hours to the iron pit at Ganina Yama for more ceremony/Patricia Leslie
The lily field at Ganina Yama with Nicholas II pictured at far left/Patricia Leslie
Fearing the Whites would find the bodies, the Bolsheviks moved them 4.5 miles from Ganina Yama to a field across these railroad tracks, the second burial site. This site was discovered in the late 1970s and kept secret until the Russian government changed in 1989/Patricia Leslie
 The second burial site of the Romanovs/Patricia Leslie
The entrance to the Chapel of St. Catherine the Martyr inside the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, St. Petersburg, the third and last burial site of the Romanovs/Patricia Leslie
The Chapel of St. Catherine the Martyr, the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, St. Petersburg, with the remains of the Romanovs and their servants, now saints of the Russian Orthodox Church/Patricia Leslie

At the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, St. Petersburg/Patricia Leslie

It's as if a publisher ordered a writer to find the most negative research possible and turn it into a book, and that's exactly what Candace Fleming did with her 2014 The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia.

Fleming and her team found all things bad they could possibly locate about the Romanovs and then packed them into her book. Only when the family begins the last leg of their journey to Siberia and certain death, does Fleming show any sympathy and, maybe a little remorse, over the outcome.  

She describes the five children as "young savages" whose parents cared little about their children's education (not true). She ridicules an eight-year-old's behavior (show me a perfect eight-year-old), and the grammar of a 13-year-old. Tsk, tsk.

From criticizing the children to sneering at the family's pets, clothing, languages, childcare, schooling and illnesses, Fleming goes overboard to paint the family as n'er do wells, dilettantes with nothing more to do than smoke (Nicholas), frown and lay around (Alexandra), ignore
 their offspring and fail to keep up with their studies (the children).  (I suppose Fleming has never been a parent.) 

What was good about the Romanovs?  Oh, yes, the women played nursemaid during the War.

Even the speaker's condescending attitude makes its way onto the pages while she reads the book, no doubt given instruction to read in a haughty manner. She succeeds!

Designed to influence young readers, it's no wonder adults are not Fleming's market since anyone with a smidgen of Romanov knowledge would quickly recognize this portrayal as a lopsided, petty picture of a family sacrificed on the altar of politics.

On her website Fleming carries a trailer for the book which makes light of the family and their plight, accompanied by whimsical music.

Hundreds of books have been written about the family and this sad chapter of Russian history which elicit our sympathy and attempt to understand rather than ridicule. Who else does this? It may be the first time Fleming has been compared to Trump.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

At the think tanks: Dr. Fiona Hill

Fiona Hill/Wilson Center

Yes, that Fiona Hill. The one who testified at Trump's impeachment trial.

A former member of the National Security Council (2017-2019), she is a senior fellow at Brookings who spoke last week on a webcast hosted by the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. 

Kennan director, Matthew Rojansky, led the discussion in a program titled: The Putin Profile: A Conversation with Dr. Fiona Hill.
Fiona Hill, center left, next to John Bolton, then U.S. National Security Advisor, meeting with Vladimir Putin, across the table, and other Russian leaders at the Kremlin, June 27, 2018/Wikimedia Commons,, CC

Vladimir Putin has practically sucked all the "oxygen" out of Russia with his international agenda and his neglect of domestic affairs, Dr. Hill began her talk. Hence, demonstrations throughout Russia (particularly in the Far East).

"Soviet times" had many more "checks and balances," but since 2000, Putin has become "the state."

Rather than paying attention to Russia, Putin focuses on the world at large, vying to become an "elder statesman." He wants to regain Russia's "seat at the table" and get Russia back in the mix as a great power with big global ambitions which explains his interest in Syria, Venezuela, Libya, the Middle East, and Africa. 

"'Hey!'" Putin says (quoting Dr. Hill): "'We've still got the ability to project force" and "be at the table."

He's "obsessed" with the U.S., but this "mud wrestling" does not advance his program.

One of the reasons Putin's leadership role in Russia was extended 
until possibly 2036 by approval last month of constitutional amendments, is because he was (is?) "increasingly seen as a "'lame duck.'"

"Where are all the fresh ideas?" to make Russia great? Perpetual cycles of conflict are "not very helpful." 

Answering a question from a viewer about Trump's  re-election, Dr. Hill said Putin has more to gain by "upsetting America" and "sowing discord" which will be more difficult for Russia to achieve if there's a large voter turnout in the U.S.

"It's clear he wants to see a weaker U.S. president no matter who he (sic) is." A "fairly diminished U.S. president" will be good for Russia. 

"The more we're in a fight with Russia," she said (she became a U.S. citizen in 2002), "the less we can focus on bigger issues."  Arms control is a "necessary endeavor."

The "heavy breathing" and "hysteria we have" in the U.S. about Russia cannot compare to what "we" should be focusing on when it comes to China.

She has met Putin several times and "in some respects, what you see is someone who's grown much more comfortable" in his role(s).

"He's decided to put on many faces," a man "who has thought a lot about his brand" (which threatens to grow stale), riding shirtless on a horse. All these actions "appear deliberate to signal his vigor to the rest of the world, because, 'Hey! Don't mess with me!'" is the message he tries to convey.

She was not saying, she emphasized, that "he's lost his edge," but he's "kind of lost [with] what's going on domestically."  

Mentioned several times during the conversation was her book, Mr. Putin: Operative at the Kremlin (2013), co-authored with Clifford Gaddy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Trump cartoon idea: "It is what it is"

/Patricia Leslie

He leaps into his own grave where a tombstone sits nearby with the words:  "It is what it is" above the birth and death years, 2017-2021.

He wears a suit with long tie (almost to his feet, nearly causing him to trip) and long hair flying. He hugs an American flag, taking it down with him.

In this cemetery at Mar-A-Lago are a few palm trees and grave holes, waiting for the stacked caskets nearby to be lowered inside them. In front of hearses outlining the scene, stand notable Republicans (McConnell, Graham, Pence, Collins) with their heads bowed. A flag waves on a pole:  "RIP, Republican Party."